Within 26 seconds of the second half against the 76ers, Joe Mazzulla removes the Celtics’ guard………………..

Joe Mazzulla, the head coach of the Boston Celtics, celebrates as his team defeats the Atlanta Hawks on Saturday, March 11, 2023, in Atlanta. Alex Slitz/AP Photo

Joe Mazzulla has made it clear that he wants this Celtics team to put greater emphasis on defense this year. This emphasis was particularly evident among players competing for roster spots during the team’s preseason game against the Philadelphia 76ers on Wednesday night.

Dalano Banton, who stands 6 feet 7 inches tall, is one of the competitors for a roster position. Following the first half, Mazzulla decided to rest his regulars, giving the third-year guard the starting position at guard.

Lamar Stevens came to the scorer’s table to take Banton’s position after just 34 seconds on the court to start the third quarter. The issue? On Boston’s first defensive possession, there was a glaring lack of effort on the defensive glass.

According to Mazzulla, who was quoted by Adam Himmelsbach of the Boston Globe, “There’s nothing more important than holding people to a high standard, especially when you believe in them and know they can be really, really good.” “And we have a roster of 1-17 players in which I genuinely believe. And there is simply a terrific opportunity for learning. I believed he might have gotten the ball that was lying there on the ground. So kudos to him for being able to accept instruction and for his excellent performance. I thought his attitude toward being coached and then responding was admirable. He has a chance to be a really successful player in this league. It is quite significant. And I appreciate him letting me coach.

After a difficult Summer League, Banton has shown a lot of promise for the Celtics in preseason, including starting against the Knicks on Monday night and scoring 20 points. His inconsistent play, though, hindered him throughout his first two seasons in Toronto, and as a result, the two sides parted ways this offseason. On Monday night, Mazzulla praised the 23-year-old guard, but a clearer message about what he anticipates from his bench this season on the defensive end was made on Wednesday with a swift hook.

On Monday night, Mazzulla told reporters, “His ability to make plays on the offensive end, make the appropriate play, whether it’s drive, it has recognition of screening. He is flexible defensively and does an excellent job getting deflections, rebounding out of his area, and crashing. He also truly comprehends the game. He’s an extremely smart player, in my opinion.

In the victory on Wednesday, Banton ended up with no points in 15 minutes while also collecting four rebounds and two turnovers. Next Tuesday, against the Knicks at home in a preseason game, he will play again for Boston.

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